One listen to the titular track from Hunx And His Punx frontman Seth Bogart’s Hairdresser Blues is all it takes to dispel a decades-old misconception that the hairstyling industry is all fun, games and beehives. “I don’t want to cut your hair, and I don’t want to go back to school,” Bogart moans over a melancholy jangle-pop jam. You can’t blame Bogart for being down: In the years since we last heard from the genre-bending rocker, he lost a close friend (Jay Reatard), fell in and out of love countless times and grappled with his father’s death. With such dark matters looming overhead, the San Francisco scuzz-rocker took on a different type of styling: an album without his gaggle of sprightly backup singers, crafted entirely on his own (Bogart plays all the instruments on this record except drums), that is as contemplative as it is catchy.
Hairdresser Blues is more glum than Hunx’s past releases, but there’s plenty of the songwriter’s characteristic sly sleaziness. “Private Room” is a classic cruising anthem inspired by San Francisco’s nude beaches, with the lustful energy listeners have come to expect. “Let Me In” shines with the same randy rambunctiousness, references to “the birds and the bees” and all. There’s also roller-derby anthem “Do You Remember Being A Roller,” an infectious glam-punk tune that features an immediate, chunky riff and a surf-rock beat that transports the listener back to the days when kids hung out at the skate rink rather than on Skype.
The album’s best moments are those that see Bogart at his most vulnerable, the songs he crafted on lonely nights as tributes to lost loved ones. “Say Goodbye Before You Leave” is the rocker’s farewell to Reatard, and it’s exactly what the beloved garage-rocker would have wanted: a song that, while mournful, celebrates the crazy nights, the late-night phone calls and even Reatard’s curly hair. “When You’re Gone,” meanwhile, sees Bogart grappling with the all-too-familiar problem of coming to terms with the death of a loved one. “I wanna believe that you’re here and you’re with me,” he insists, his pained voice piercing through the haze of an acid-washed grunge ballad. We’re so used to seeing Bogart sing songs about decadence and dandiness, but here he shows he can also write about heartbreak and loss with a sense of frank honesty.
When fans heard that Bogart was releasing a solo LP, many grew anxious: Without the rest of his group, would Hunx be able to stand on his own? With Hairdresser Blues, we have our answer. Even as a solo album, Bogart’s latest effort has ample amounts of the girl-group-garage we’ve come to love, and sonically, it’s on par with the rest of his discography: meaty instrumentation, multi-layered vocals, winks and smirks. Best of all, we get to see behind the curtain of one of glam-punk’s silliest, sunniest frontmen and see a more introspective Hunx, a man who doesn’t want to cut your hair or take you home but rather a man who wants you to appreciate what you have before it’s gone.